Dozens of KU teaching assistants rally for raises ahead of proposed budget cuts

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — About 100 graduate teaching assistants stood in front of Strong Hall at the University of Kansas on Monday, protesting proposed budget cuts.

The GTAs said they already aren’t being paid a living wage, and now they worry they’ll lose their jobs altogether. 

University of Kansas department heads told the teaching assistants they received emails Friday afternoon detailing how much they’d have to cut their budgets next year.

In January, KU Chancellor Douglas Girod painted a bleak picture because of the pandemic. He said Gov. Laura Kelly proposed the biggest budget cut to the university in history, $13.6 million at a time when KU was projecting a $74.6 million shortfall next year. Girod warned it would force them to eliminate programs and departments.

“Show me what KU looks like! This is what KU looks like!” the GTAs chanted at Monday’s rally, saying their jobs shouldn’t be on the chopping block. 

“KU works because GTAs work. We teach 40% of the classes offered at KU,” Andrew Kustodowicz said.

“The fact KU is taking advantage of this national crisis to not only try to cut my friends’ and mine’s positions, but also continue not paying us a living wage is unconscionable,” Elise Higgins said.

No cuts have been made yet, but the teaching assistants said they want a seat at the table as those decisions are made on how to manage the budget. They said options should include utilizing the university’s endowment and looking at higher paid positions not involved in instruction. 

“There is a moral question before an economics question. It’s what do you value and what are you going to try to fund with the limited money you have? They’ve told us they value their high pay. They value their athletics department and their travel expenses,” Benjamin Porter said.

Department heads said they’ve been given until March 26 to respond with how they plan to trim their budgets. The Board of Regents is set to approve tuition rates for next year in June. 

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